Category: Appetizer

Classic Tomato Salsa

Salsa

Salsa

Per a request, this is my basic salsa recipe (enjoy this one, Tom). The great thing about salsa is that you can tweak it left and right to make the kind of salsa that suits your taste. Do you like cilantro, add an entire bunch (I do, it’s one of my favorite flavors). Hot or mild, play with the jalapeno to taste. Add a few chipotle peppers if you like it smokey. There are endless ways you can modify this recipe to make something incredible. I’m a huge fan of green salsa made with tomatillos, and I’ve even made salsa with spirits and odd spices. My point is that this is a great basic recipe and I challenge you to make it your own. Your taste buds will thank me.

Ingredients:
3 large tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon green jalapeno chilies
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
The easiest way to make this is to place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse slowly until all ingredients are chopped but not pureed. I like a thick salsa, so I often add the garlic, lime juice and salt first, pulse (to get the garlic chopped well) then add the remaining ingredients and roughly process.

If you don’t have a food processor, or prefer to not use one, just chop up all the ingredients and mix together in a bowl. It is that easy. Sprinkle with a little dried cilantro, or even thyme or Mexican oregano for garnish.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Homemade ricotta cheese

Homemade ricotta cheese

Cheese is not something that people often think to make at home, but there is nothing in the world quite like fresh ricotta cheese. Surprisingly easy to make, this staple (in my house) is above and beyond store-bought ricotta. I often use this in our other staple, lasagna, and we even eat it plain in a bowl with a little salt and pepper, as we would eat cottage cheese. Ricotta is one of the easiest cheeses to make at home as it requires no rennet (special enzymes to curdle the milk) nor does it require any aging or care. It is the ‘lazy person’s’ cheese, so to speak, but there is nothing lazy about how fast I eat it.

Ingredients
1 gallon whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1 quart buttermilk
4 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons lemon juice

You will also need a thermometer, sieve or colander, and some cheesecloth.

Directions
1. Combine the milk, buttermilk, cream, and salt in a non-reactive pan.

Forming curds

Forming curds

2. Prepare the colander for the draining process by moistening a few sheets of cheesecloth and layering them in the colander. This is where you will be placing the curds to drain excess whey. I place the colander in the sink to drain.

3. Attach the thermometer to the pan so that you may monitor the temperature.

4. Heat the mixture on high, stirring occasionally to prevent any milk from scorching on the bottom of the pan.

5. When the milk has reached about 175 degrees F, add the lemon juice and gently stir it in. You will see curds start to form immediately. Allow a few minutes for more curds to accumulate, stirring very gently on occasion.

Spooning curds

Spooning curds

6. Using a skimmer or sieve, remove curds from the pot and place them in the cheesecloth lined colander. The moisture level of the cheese will be determined by how long you let it drain. I like a moist ricotta, so I let it drain about five to ten minutes, but for a more firm cheese, let the curds drain longer.

7. When the curds have finished draining, remove them and eat immediately for the best ricotta you have ever tasted. The cheese will also last a few days in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Caramelized Salsa Verde

Caramelized Salsa Verde

Caramelized Salsa Verde

This is a surprisingly good take on salsa verde, the caramelization of the vegetables adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the classic salsa. I like to serve this warm with tortilla chips, but it works well in place of guacamole, or even with guacamole in tacos and fajitas. I often make it with the green chilies (without the pith and seeds) for a less spicy dish, but the chilies give the salsa a more nuanced character, so I like to include them.

Ingredients
2 pounds of tomatillos (husk removed)
6 green chilies (if you like it spicy)
1/2 of a medium onion, left intact, not cut up
2 garlic cloves
6 sprigs of cilantro leaves, including stem
1 teaspoon lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt to taste

Directions
1. Cut the tomatillos into quarters. If you are using the green chilies, you can remove the seeds and the pith (white ribs) if you like them less spicy, or keep them if you like more heat). Heat the oil in a pan and add the tomatillos, chilies, onion, and garlic. Cook over a medium-high heat, moving the items periodically to prevent them from burning. Cook the vegetables until they have turned a nice brown color, indicating that caramelization has begun. The tomatillos will cook down and lose a lot of moisture, this is normal.

2. When the vegetables have caramelized, place them in a blender or food processor, add the cilantro, lime juice and salt, and puree until smooth. Place in a bowl and serve.

This dish can be served on its own as a dip, or used on food. It can also be served warm or chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use, it will taste great either way.

Mexican Red Bell Pepper and Cheese Soup

mexican red bell pepper soup

Mexican Red Bell Pepper Soup

This soup is very easy to make in just a few minutes. It is the classic tale of looking in the refrigerator and finding no food. What I did find was a red bell pepper, and a few hunks of cheese. The old potato in the wire basket made the dish almost complete. The cheese and the potato give this soup a creamy consistency which is really amazing. The sweetness and distinct flavor of the pepper really come through, even with the intensity of the cheese. You can also use low fat versions of the cheeses with great results. Sometimes I add a chile pepper to give it a nice kick, and pepper jack cheese would do the trick as well. I will also generally use whatever cheese I have on hand, the choice is yours. One really nice aspect of this soup is that by adding the shredded cheese and incorporating it into the hot soup off the heat, most of the cheese melts in, however you will still find cheese strands throughout the soup, giving it a really wonderful combination of textures.

Ingredients
1 big red bell pepper (or 2 small ones), seeded with the pith (ribs) removed
1 medium potato
4 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 cups mixed shredded cheese (I usually use Cheddar, Queso Fresco, & Asadero), regular or low fat

Directions
1. Cut the pepper and potato into small pieces and place in a pot with the stock, cooking it at a medium-high heat.

2. After 10 minutes or so, use a hand blender to puree the soup (this can be done by pouring it into a blender as well if you don’t have the hand version).

3. Turn off the heat and add the cheese, stirring to melt it thoroughly. When the cheese has melted, which takes a minute or so, you are ready to serve.

Makes 4 – 6 servings.

Smoked Salmon

smoked salmon

Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon should be one of the wonders of the world. I often refer to this recipe as “salmon bacon” because that is close to what you will be making. Smoky, salty, intensely rich and complex, this salmon doesn’t last long in my house (even my picky children can’t get enough). It may be a little more time consuming that some of the other Gatehouse Gourmet recipes, but it is well worth the effort. I generally make a lot of this at once and eat it over the next few days (it should last 10 days in the refrigerator, or 6 months if frozen).

The Brine
The process begins with creating the brine in which the salmon will marinate for about a day (a minimum of 8 hours, and no longer than two days if you really want, however overnight is usually perfect).

Ingredients for the brine
6 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3  cup kosher salt (kosher salt dissolves much more easily than table salt)
4 bay leaves
1/2 a medium sized onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed (crushed)
1/2 cup fennel, chopped
1 stalk of celery

You will need:
2 lbs salmon fillet(s), pin bones removed

Mix all the above ingredients together and marinate the fish in a non-reactive container (glass, Tupperware, etc) for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator. Overnight seems to work best. The fish will cure in the brine, which will draw out some of the moisture, concentrating the flavor. It will also allow salt to penetrate the meat, which will also enhance the flavor of the fish.

Drying the Fish
Remove the fish from the brine and lay it on a rack in a cool area, allowing air to circulate over the top and bottom if the fish. Allow the fish to dry for 2-3 hours, and the fish will form what is called a ‘pellicle’ on its surface, which is a thin, hard layer of protein that will both seal the fish, and allow the smoky flavor to adhere later.

Smoking the Fish
This dish calls for “hot smoking” which is smoking in a heated environment, rather than a cool one, which will also somewhat cook the fish. In your smoker, feel free to add any type of wood that you prefer, Apple, Oak, Hickory, etc. The fish should be smoked at about 140 degrees for approximately 2 hours, more or less depending on the thickness of the fillets (tail sections may take as little as 1 hour, while the thickest fillets shouldn’t take much longer than 2.5 hours). When the internal temperature of the fish reaches 140 degrees, it is done (a meat thermometer is very handy here). You can also tell it is done by checking to see when the meat flakes easily. The more you do this, the better your instincts will be to determine doneness.

I will often double this recipe and make up to 5 pounds of salmon at a time since I can’t keep it around long enough to enjoy it. My suggestion… Hide it so you don’t have to share.